This article continues the Career Brief series featuring two stories every week from current 2L students who agreed to answer for PDO, How I Spent My Summer. These stories are posted on the bulletin board outside of PDO’s offices.
Jennifer Ku: Intern, Department of Homeland Security
Office of Principal Legal Advisor, National Security Law Division, Washington, D.C.
How did you learn about the job? I learned about the internship with the National Security Law Division (NSLD) through one of PDO’s email updates. I was interested in it because of the location in Washington, D.C., and because I am interested in international/immigration issues. The NSLD deals primarily with immigration law and national security issues, as it enforces the ‘removal’ (deportation) laws with respect to national security threats, including terrorists, illegal arms exporters, and spies.
How did you apply and what was the application process like? The initial application included cover letter and resume, followed by a phone interview, writing sample, and transcript. In my cover letter, I emphasized my interest in national security law. During the interview, the questions included why I wanted to work for NSLD, background in national security and immigration law, and foreign travel and experience.
What was a typical day or week at your job like? Over the summer, my work primarily involved researching and drafting executive summaries concerning individuals and groups of national security interest. I also drafted appeals memoranda and edited division and field office briefs. A typical week or day would vary depending on the projects, but most days consisted of research and writing with a meetings and field trips thrown in to mix it up. The work day was pretty standard-9 to 5, but because all of the work had a security element, all work had to be done in the office which required after hours work as well.
What was the coolest part about the job? The coolest parts of the job was being able to do substantive work, seeing the application of the law, and being in D.C. I also got to work with a wonderful group of attorneys who were great mentors.
What did you gain from the experience? I gained some insight on how the law and policy can be successfully—and sometimes unsuccessfully—implemented and enforced.
What advice would you offer future applicants? Apply for what interests you, and don’t let the fact that an internship is unpaid deter you from gaining a potentially wonderful experience.
Erin Peterson: Law Clerk, Election Assistance Commission in Washington, D.C.
How did you learn about the job? Through PDO & networking.
How did you apply and what was the application process like? I replied to an advertisement in February by sending a resume, cover letter and writing sample. I emphasized my previous work in election law in my cover letter and my interest in elections during the interview. I had only one interview. The questions were specific about which classes I had taken (Constitutional, Agency, Administrative, Elections law) and about research I had mentioned in my cover letter.
What was a typical day or week at your job like? A typical week began by working Monday morning on a “backburner” project, such as a state law compilation or memo, and then as the office got busier during the week, the attorneys give us research assignments or writing projects.
What was the coolest part about the job? Living in D.C. was great. Also, the office had plenty of non-legal interns to become friends with, and the staff was really nice, and wanted to get to know me, too. The sense of accomplishment in finishing a project that mattered for more than a grade in legal writing was really neat. The coolest part is that elections law is such an interesting and evolving area. There was even a Supreme Court opinion to work with this summer.
What did you gain from the experience? I learned a ton about using Westlaw and Lexis, election law, constitutional law, administrative law, and writing concisely. I also learned that I really love leaving work at 5:00 each evening, and working with people who leave at 5 and have stories the next day or just aren’t stressed from being in the office all night. The people were wonderful and living in D.C. is great!
What advice would you offer future applicants? Beware that moving twice and working a full summer doesn’t leave any time for a break during the summer. It was straight from finals to work and back to school—but since many of the interns at the EAC are local D.C./VA students, it’s hard to compete if you’re not willing to work a full summer. This is definitely a job where you hit the ground running and keep running.